Michael Danna on his song being nominated for an Oscar
As a music composer, Mychael Danna has an impressive list of films under his belt. He had earlier scored for Deepa Mehta's as well as Mira Nair's projects.
However, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi marks the first time he has been nominated by the Academy and that too in two categories — Original Score and Original Song. Interestingly, the Lullaby song in question is sung by Bombay Jayshree (who is a co-nominee). In a freewheeling chat with CS, the 54-year-old Canadian musician shares his thoughts on music, career and life as he awaits the Academy Awards night.
Who: Michael Danna
What: On his song being nominated for Oscar
Before a musician, I’m a filmmaker. I see myself as a part of the filmmaking crew so I think of myself as a cog in the system that is telling a story. The whole inspiration part comes from the director’s vision of the story —how s/he wants to deliver a given plot.
I’m married to Aparna who is of Indian origin so needless to say, I’m quite familiar with Bollywood music! I watch a lot of Hindi movies with her and I enjoy the music too. In the past few years, there have been a lot of fusion of different style and it’s intriguing to take notice of the change in music scenario. I don’t know whether I’d be able to do justice to any of these films as a music composer but I’d definitely love to be part of a mainstream Bollywood film someday. In the past seven years, I’ve been to India about 20 times and I love it because one can always expect the unexpected. And that’s a great deal of a free lesson for an artist.
The lullaby theory
It happened at the very beginning of the film because Ang wanted to establish the protagonist’s childhood in the very first scene itself. The song was a medium to present this paradise-like place where he grew up. Ultimately, the song is an expression of a mother’s deep love for her child. He was also very particular about having a song that is not only soothing but also essentially South Indian in nature. So I flew all the way to India last December to collaborate with Bombay Jayshree for the song. Even though I hadn’t met her before, I was aware of her work.
Challenges and rewards
The greatest challenge was to find a precedence for this film because there was nothing in precedence to refer to. It was a very unusual film and so many people from across the globe told us that this picture was simply impossible, given the complex nature of the novel. And today, being nominated by the Academy seems like an incredible honour and a testament to the fact that we brought smiles to a million faces.